Commenter CG Hudson had a great idea in the No. 42 thread this morning about how to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day next year:
This wearing of the 42 is all well and good but how about MLB getting
creative next year (I know; no chance) and having each team wear the
number of its first African American player (i.e., Indians wear Doby’s
number, Reds wear Chuck Harmon’s, etc., etc.). We all might learn a bit
more in the process.
While I don’t like that we’ve changed Washington and Lincoln’s birthday to “Presidents’ Day,” it’s not like doing what CG suggests would diminish Robinson’s legacy the way adding Richard Nixon to the party sullies George and Abe’s. To the contrary, it honors those worthy of honor in ways they’ve never been honored before. I think it’s a great idea. I’d love it if Major League Baseball were to do this. I see only two problems:
- The late-to-integrate teams like the Red Sox and Tigers may not much care for having their historical foot-dragging shoved in their face like this. My response: tough. History is history and part of that history is exposing who, historically speaking, was slow to come to see the light. Just because Tom Yawkey was a racist doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate Pumpsie Green. And besides, all the people who fought integration are either long dead or at least long out of control of the teams they worked for or owned at the time, so who cares what they think?
- The second problem is that there are now 14 more teams in the league than there were in 1947, and all of them were integrated from Day One of their existence, so it’s not entirely clear what they should do. I’m sure we can figure something out, however. Maybe they go with Robinson. Maybe they go with Negro Leagues tribute. Maybe they do something else that reflects the civil rights struggle in their particular cities. As far as problems go, it’s solvable.
Anyway, the point is to use Jackie Robinson Day to honor the history of baseball’s integration and teach people a few things. Why not change it up a bit next year and give the Curt Roberts and Bob Trices of the world their due?
And for the record. here’s a list of the first black players on every major
league team in existence at the time the color barrier was broken:
Larry Doby Indians
Monte Irvin Giants
Thompson Giants (same day as Irvin; Thompson integrated two teams!
Minnie Minoso White Sox
Ernie Banks Cubs
Tom Alston Cardinals
Chuck Harmon Reds (same day as Escalera)
Elston Howard Yankees
Ozzie Virgil, Sr. Tigers
Green Red Sox
Make it happen, Bud!